Understanding Pregnancy Ultrasounds

A pregnancy ultrasound is a test that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images your healthcare providers can view on a computer monitor to give them information about your pregnancy. You might be wondering why a pregnancy ultrasound is necessary if you have not yet made a decision about your unexpected pregnancy. Ultrasound is beneficial because the images provide your medical team with important data, and this knowledge can give you the facts you need to make an informed decision about your pregnancy.

Types of Pregnancy Ultrasounds

Pregnancy ultrasounds include transabdominal, transvaginal, Level 2, 3D, doppler, and fetal echocardiography ultrasounds.

After a positive pregnancy test, you will likely receive:

Transabdominal ultrasound

Gel is placed on your abdomen, and a roller-like device (transducer) is moved over the gel on your abdomen. The transducer picks up soundwaves that produce images onto a computer screen.

Transvaginal ultrasound

A special, smaller transducer probe is lubricated with gel and gently placed into your vagina to obtain images. Transvaginal ultrasound is used primarily in early pregnancy.

Ways a Pregnancy Ultrasound Is Useful

To Determine Pregnancy Viability

Even if you have already decided upon abortion, you will need to know if your pregnancy is viable. A positive pregnancy test result tells you that the hCG pregnancy hormone was detected in your urine. However, it does not mean you have a viable pregnancy.

According to the March of Dimes, as many as half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage: 80% of those occur in the first trimester — or the first twelve weeks. So, after a positive pregnancy test result, you will need to confirm your pregnancy is viable by ultrasound. A viable pregnancy is one that is expected to continue and result in childbirth (if no other steps are taken).

If no fetal heartbeat is detected, you would not need an abortion but would be referred for medical treatment instead.

The location of your pregnancy also impacts viability. If your healthcare provider detects a heartbeat by ultrasound, but the pregnancy is located outside of your uterus (i.e., in the fallopian tube), your pregnancy is also not viable. An ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy implanted in the fallopian tube, is a medical emergency and requires immediate intervention.

The fetal heart rate also impacts the viability of your pregnancy. Research reveals that if an ultrasound detects a very low heart rate, called embryonic bradycardia, the rate of miscarriage is significantly higher. If embryonic bradycardia is identified during your ultrasound appointment, you will likely be asked to return in about a week to repeat the test.

To Determine How Far Along You Are in Your Pregnancy

An ultrasound can accurately measure how many weeks pregnant you are. You can’t count on using only menstrual dates for accuracy because many women experience period-like bleeding while they are pregnant.

If your pregnancy is unexpected, and you are still gathering information about how you will proceed, you will need to know how far along you are because your options will partly depend on that.

To Determine If You Have a Single Pregnancy or Multiple Pregnancy

An ultrasound can also give you a valuable indication that you might be carrying a single or multiple pregnancy.

Get the Answers You Deserve

If you have had a positive home pregnancy test or think you might be pregnant, contact our compassionate team at Willow Womens Center. We provide licensed professional medical care, including pregnancy testing and ultrasounds at no cost to you. Reach out today by calling 608-312-2025 or by using our online scheduler.


When Is an Ultrasound Most Beneficial?
When Is an Ultrasound Most Beneficial

You have just learned you are pregnant. You did not expect it, and you never thought you would be wrestling with such a big decision. Now what? Where do you start looking for resources and accurate, unbiased answers to your questions?

You do not have to navigate this journey alone. Willow Womens Center will help you find the answers to your questions. We will walk with you, one step at a time, amidst the tremendous stress of an unexpected pregnancy. One of those steps will be an ultrasound, provided by our licensed medical professionals at no cost.

What is an Ultrasound?

A pregnancy ultrasound is a safe medical test that creates images on a screen using sound waves. These images supply important facts to help you make informed decisions about an unexpected pregnancy.

Pregnancy ultrasounds can be transabdominal or transvaginal.

  • Transabdominal ultrasound

A transabdominal ultrasound is external. First, the ultrasound technician uses a warm gel that is placed on your abdomen. Then, they move a small handheld ultrasound transducer across the gel on your belly. The transducer painlessly transmits sound waves that create an image on a nearby screen.

  • Transvaginal ultrasound

A transvaginal ultrasound is internal and used most often earlier in pregnancy because it provides more accurate images when the fetus is smallest. When you have a transvaginal ultrasound, the ultrasound technician gently inserts a small tampon-like transducer inserted into your vagina.

The technician can glean the information needed in the same way as a transabdominal ultrasound by viewing images transmitted onto a computer screen.

Your ultrasound images are studied by a physician who will provide a final report. The information you receive from your ultrasound provides invaluable answers to questions that will help guide you as you decide about your unexpected pregnancy.

Why an Ultrasound?

You now know the details of having a pregnancy ultrasound, but why would you need one, especially if you are considering an abortion? We will answer that question next.

An ultrasound determines pregnancy viability, your conception date, gestational age, and if you have a multiple pregnancy.

  • Pregnancy viability

Most likely, you discovered you were pregnant by taking a home pregnancy test. A pregnancy test lets you know that the hCG pregnancy hormone was detected in your urine, but it does not tell you if your pregnancy is viable — or healthy. You can have a positive pregnancy test along with a nonviable pregnancy.

A nonviable pregnancy has no likelihood of surviving. This can happen if the pregnancy has implanted outside of the uterus (i.e., an ectopic pregnancy) or if no fetal heartbeat is detected. Why would you want to know this? Because up to 25% of known pregnancies are nonviable and end in miscarriage, and if your pregnancy is nonviable, it changes the options available to you when your pregnancy is unintended.

To summarize, an ultrasound is an essential follow-up step after you have a positive pregnancy test because a pregnancy test alone does not confirm a viable pregnancy — only an ultrasound will tell you if your pregnancy is viable or not. And this is crucial information to have before making a decision about an unexpected pregnancy.

  • Conception date and gestational age

An ultrasound also determines an accurate date of conception. That means when you became pregnant and informs you about how far along you are in your pregnancy.

If your pregnancy is unexpected, and you are considering abortion, this information is particularly important to have since different options are available to you depending on gestational age (how many weeks pregnant you are). So knowing what stage of pregnancy you are in is critical for you to make an educated decision.

  • Multiple pregnancy

About 1 in every 250 natural pregnancies are with twins; that is information you probably want to have. After a positive pregnancy test, an ultrasound can tell if you have a multiple pregnancy.

Ultrasound Timing

Now that we have looked at what an ultrasound is and why it is essential to follow up your pregnancy test with an ultrasound, we can discuss timing. When is an ultrasound most beneficial?

A pregnancy ultrasound should be performed after it has been six weeks since the first day of your last period. This ensures that your pregnancy is far enough along to provide accurate and valuable information.

If you have an ultrasound less than six weeks after the first day of your last period, it can lead to confusion. Sometimes, even if you have a viable pregnancy, the ultrasound does not detect it before six weeks. When this happens, it can increase your anxiety as it leaves you wondering.

If you are early in your pregnancy and the ultrasound is inconclusive, meaning your healthcare provider cannot determine if the pregnancy is viable or not, you can make an appointment in another week or two for a follow-up ultrasound.

There are several reasons why a viable pregnancy would not be detected on ultrasound:

  • The pregnancy is too early to detect
  • Conception occurred later in your menstrual cycle
  • Mistaken last missed period date
  • Larger abdomen
  • Tipped uterus

The last thing you need right now is to add to your stress by having to face more uncertainty and waiting after an inconclusive ultrasound. So, be sure to schedule your pregnancy ultrasound appointment at least six weeks or longer after the first day of your last period when the ultrasound is most beneficial.

Rest assured that waiting six weeks will not limit your options for an unintended pregnancy in any way. You will still have the same choices available to you, but you will have more accurate information to make your choices with.

Get Reliable Support

Call (608) 312-2025, or make a confidential appointment online with Willow Womens Center today. We understand that you can feel bombarded with information, facts, and conflicting advice when you are facing an unexpected pregnancy.

Our compassionate advocates and licensed medical professionals are available to answer your questions in a judgment-free environment. We are committed to empowering you, so you can feel good about making an informed decision.


Could You Be Further Along in Pregnancy Than You Think?
can you be further along in pregnancy than you think

Trying to determine when you are due and whether that due date is correct, can be challenging, especially if you feel “bigger” than you did with previous pregnancies or you are measuring ahead during your appointments. This blog post explores signs that your due date might be off, factors that can influence an inaccurate due date, and how to estimate your due date based on your menstrual cycle.

Signs Your Due Date Is Off

If you don’t know the first date of your last menstrual period, you don’t know your average cycle length, or you have mistaken bleeding during pregnancy for menstruation, your assumed due date can be inaccurate. Some of the most common signs that your due date might be off are:

  • your ultrasound-predicted due date is more than a week from your menstrual-cycle due date
  • your fundal height is off, especially if it is off by more than 3 cm
  • your due date was determined by fetal Doppler or an ultrasound in the second or third trimester; these are less accurate ways to estimate the due date.

It is important to rely on the expertise of your OBGYN or other physician to help you understand how your due date was calculated, what outliers like a fundal height that is measuring ahead might mean for you (fundal height is the distance from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus measured in centimeters), and what you can expect when it comes to gestational length. Ultrasound-determined due dates are most accurate during the first trimester, and measuring ‘ahead’ doesn’t result in a changed due date in most cases.

In short, it is common to deliver a few weeks before to one week after your due date, and true due date changes are less common and should be made by a provider based on all of the information they have available to them.

Influencing Factors

A number of studies have evaluated average gestation length as it relates to different factors, like age, race, pregnancy history, and more. Here’s what those studies have revealed:

  • length of gestation increases with maternal age, so mothers who are under 25 are likely to have shorter pregnancies than women who are over 25, for example
  • length of gestation is longer for women with higher birth weights themselves, i.e. women who weighed more at birth will carry a pregnancy longer on average than women who weighed less at birth
  • women with longer implantation periods also have longer pregnancies
  • smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or both increase the risk of preterm birth and shorten gestation overall
  • black women have shorter pregnancies than white women by 5 days on average
  • pregnancies with male fetuses are longer on average than pregnancies with female fetuses
  • gestation decreases as the number of fetuses increases; i.e. singleton pregnancies are longer on average than twin pregnancies and length continues to decrease as the number of fetuses increases

While all of these factors can influence how long you can expect to be pregnant, your due date will remain the same. That means that even if you and your provider suspect that you will deliver early or late, your due date won’t be adjusted to account for that – it will remain at 40 weeks past the first day of your last menstrual period.

How to Estimate An Accurate Due Date

First, it is important to note that your due date is simply an estimate; it can help you plan and prepare and help you and your doctors make decisions in the case of early delivery or complications, but it cannot predict exactly when you will go into labor. Your due date is typically set for 40 weeks after the first day of your last menstrual period, and most women deliver sometime after 37 weeks and before 41 weeks.

Tracking your periods can help you estimate an accurate due date. To estimate your own due date:

  1. Identify the first date of your last normal menstrual period. Some women mistake bleeding during pregnancy for their menstrual period and don’t realize they are pregnant, so it is important to reflect on whether the period was as heavy, as long, and as uncomfortable as it has typically been in the past. If you can’t remember or don’t keep track of your menstrual cycle, sometimes it can be helpful to think about where you were at or what you were doing when it started and then cross-reference your calendar.
  2. Add 40 weeks or 280 days. There are a variety of free pregnancy due date calculators online, like this one from the American Pregnancy Association, that will do the math for you so you don’t have to count it out yourself.

Then, you can calculate how many weeks or months pregnant you are at any given time, using these formulas:

  • Number of weeks pregnant: take the number of days that have passed since the first day of your last menstrual period divided by 7
  • Number of months pregnant: take the number of days that have passed since the first day of your last menstrual period divided by 30

Keep in mind that you will be two weeks further along in your pregnancy than you might think; for example, if you had sex and conceived two weeks ago, and you have a 28 day cycle, then you are actually four weeks pregnant.

Getting Help for an Unexpected Pregnancy

If you think you might be pregnant and are weighing your options, scheduling an early pregnancy test and ultrasound is one reliable way to estimate your due date when you don’t know the first day of your last menstrual period. Early knowledge of pregnancy is key to ensuring a healthy lifestyle, adequate nutrition, and time to explore options, especially in the case of an unexpected or surprise pregnancy. Willow Womens Center offers pregnancy testing, pregnancy options counseling, and ultrasound for women who test positive in our office. Ultrasounds are most productive if you are approximately 6 weeks from your last menstrual period. If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, schedule your confidential visit at  Willow Womens Center today.


Being Pressured into Abortion? What Next?
being pressured into abortion

At Willow Womens Center, we frequently meet women who share that they are facing pressure to have an abortion. This pressure can make an already complex decision much more confusing during such a difficult time. In this blog post, we will review different types of pressure, your rights as a woman who is expecting (regardless of age), and what you can do in this situation.

Different Types of Pressure

While some women know for sure that their partner or parents are applying pressure, other women feel confused about the behavior they are seeing and experiencing. That pressure comes in many forms.

Direct pressure occurs when your partner (or in some cases, your parent or parents) tells you to get an abortion. They may tell you that they do not want a child, will not stay with you if you have the child, will not claim the child, or they will not support the child. In some cases, a woman may even be subject to verbal or physical abuse if she resists this pressure to terminate her pregnancy.

Indirect pressure occurs when your partner plants seeds of doubt in your mind without directly demanding that you terminate the pregnancy. For example, he might say things like, “I just don’t know if your mental health can really handle this right now,” to a woman who has a diagnosis of anxiety or depression, or, “How are you going to afford this on your own?” to a woman who does not work outside the home. He might insinuate that your relationship will not survive, your body won’t bounce back, your finances won’t suffice, or other aspects of your life will suffer if you move forward with the pregnancy. After these comments, you might believe it was your own decision to have an abortion.

Situational pressure is more difficult to identify and occurs when a situation is not conducive to pregnancy or parenthood. Perhaps none of your friends have children and having a baby will leave you feeling ostracized or left out, or perhaps your parents are absent in your life so you do not believe you have the role models or support you need to provide a loving home for a child. Maybe you feel that having a child out of wedlock or born of an affair will lead to being shunned or judged by your peers at work or in school. These are all examples of situational pressure.

Legalities When Being Pressured into Abortion

There are several things you need to know about your legal rights if you are being pressured to have an abortion.

Nobody can force you to terminate a pregnancy. Even if you are under 18 years old, you cannot be forced to have an abortion against your will. Depending on the jurisdiction, the person attempting to force you to have an abortion can potentially be charged with coercion, a form of abuse. If you feel like you are not safe because you are refusing to have an abortion, contact the police and request a protection order.

You can always withdraw your consent even after you have already scheduled an appointment to have an abortion. Many women change their minds after scheduling an appointment they were pressured to schedule, but do not know that they can change their minds after signing consent. Until the abortion has been performed, you have a right to change your mind – even if you are already at the clinic or you have already taken one of the abortion pills. Abortion pill reversals may be available.

What to Do Next

First, schedule an appointment at Willow Womens Center to learn about all your options. We are located in Beloit, Wisconsin and offer pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, STI testing, community resources, and more to help you make the most informed decision possible during this difficult and often confusing time.

It is also important to give whoever is pressuring you some time and space to work through their feelings. Remember that an unplanned pregnancy causes emotions for you and other people that are close to you, such as your partner or a parent. Invite them to come with you to your appointment at our clinic, where they can see the ultrasound images and can find out some of the important information together with you.

Share your pregnancy with others who will support you. If you are not getting the support you need from your partner, it is important to share your news with friends or family members who will support you and can help you with your decision. These days can be less stressful when you have the right people alongside you, and often you also need somebody to talk to as you experience the ups and downs of pregnancy.

Finally, take time to get to explore what you want. Ask yourself what your plans for your future and your values are and how these will be impacted by your decision. Explore your fears and worries about this unexpected pregnancy in depth and get support to work through them with a friend, mentor, or counselor. Ask yourself what is important to you, how this pregnancy fits into that, and what kind of decisions you need to make now to align with your plans and values and who you are as a person.

Getting Help From Willow Womens Center

Facing an unplanned pregnancy is complicated in any situation, but it becomes infinitely more challenging if you feel pressured to make a decision that you may not want. Take the first step toward making an informed decision that you can stand behind and schedule a consultation with Willow Womens Center in Beloit, Wisconsin today. During your appointment, we can provide pregnancy testing, perform an ultrasound examination, and share all the options available to you, including abortion, so you can make the most informed decision about your future.


How to Take Care of Yourself After an Abortion

Having an abortion may have turned out to be more challenging than you expected it to be, and self-care is critically important afterward.

If you are recovering from a medical or surgical abortion, you are not alone. Research reveals that in the United States, 24% of women aged 15 to 44 years will have an abortion by age 45.

What can you do to improve your healing process after an abortion? Read on to learn more about how to care for yourself physically and emotionally while you are recovering from an abortion.

How to Take Care of Yourself After an Abortion 

Whether you had a medical or surgical abortion, self-care is essential so you can recover and thrive. Self-care during this time includes resting, drinking plenty of fluids, eating healthy foods, and incorporating anything healthy and comforting to you. 

If you were prescribed antibiotics, take all the pills until they are gone to prevent infection. And take antinausea and pain medication as directed. 

Remember that you can get pregnant very quickly after an abortion, so take precautions to prevent another unexpected pregnancy. 

You are valuable and deserve to care for yourself physically and emotionally.

1. How to Care for Yourself Physically After Abortion 

After an abortion, you need to know which physical side effects are expected and which symptoms indicate a complication requiring immediate medical attention. First, we will discuss common side effects after abortion and how to take care of yourself if you experience them. 

  • Bleeding

Some women have minimal bleeding after a surgical abortion because surgical instruments are used on the uterine lining. But on average, post-abortion bleeding lasts 14 days and can last as long as six weeks. Passing small blood clots is normal, and you may notice that bleeding increases if you are more active.

Try to physically get as much rest as you can for the first day or two after an abortion. Also, avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for about one week.

Use pads for the bleeding since most healthcare professionals recommend not putting anything into your vagina for two weeks, including tampons. This is to prevent infection while waiting for your cervix to close after having an abortion.

  • Cramping

Your uterus needs to return to its pre-pregnancy size, so uncomfortable cramping is normal after an abortion.

For cramping relief, you can take Ibuprofen or Tylenol as directed. Do not take aspirin because it can increase bleeding. A heating pad on your abdomen can also relieve cramping pain. 

Uterine massage is another effective way to alleviate cramping. To do uterine massage, press the palm of your hand into your abdomen and rub in a circular motion.

Post-abortion cramping can come and go for about 7 to 10 days. As with post-abortion bleeding, cramps may increase with activity so listen to your body and pace yourself.

  • Nausea/Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting for the first 24 hours after abortion is common and may also be accompanied by diarrhea.  

To help with these symptoms, you can eat small, bland, starchy meals such as dry toast or crackers. It may also help to have beverages on hand with extra electrolytes.

The following symptoms are NOT normal after an abortion. If you experience them, seek out medical care immediately.

  • Heavy bleeding: soaking two or more maxi pads an hour for two hours or passing clots larger than a golf ball for two hours or more
  • Severe abdominal or back pain: pain not relieved with pain medication
  • Fever over 100.4°: may indicate a serious infection that has spread to your bloodstream or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Odorous vaginal discharge: a sign of infection
  • Nausea and vomiting for more than 24 hours after the abortion:
  • You still have pregnancy symptoms two weeks after the abortion: could indicate a failed abortion if you are still experiencing signs of pregnancy two weeks after your abortion

2. How to Care for Yourself Emotionally After Abortion

There is not a correct way to feel after an abortion. Feelings of relief, sadness, or a combination of many conflicting emotions are normal. You have not only just made one of the most difficult decisions you have ever faced, but your body is experiencing physical symptoms as your hormone levels shift suddenly, which can cause you to feel extra emotional.

Research indicates that abortion is associated with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders compared to women without a history of abortion. If you notice that you are having difficulty coping after an abortion, help is available for you. If a supportive family member or friend is not available, there are other resources to get the help you need.

Push yourself to reach out for help – even if you may not feel like seeking support at the moment. The sooner you can address post-abortion emotional difficulties, the quicker you can get on your path to recovery.

You can reach confidential hotlines for mental health support at SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or via text message: 435748 (HELP4U). It is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year information service in English and Spanish.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself, take it seriously and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. What you are feeling is temporary, and with compassionate support and over time things will improve!

Need Support After Abortion?

If you think you might be unexpectedly pregnant or need support after abortion, Willow Womens Center is here for you. From the moment you walk into our center, you will recognize an atmosphere of care that will never include judgment for any decision you make – or have already made. Instead, our role is to compassionately come alongside you and provide you with the answers you need so you can take informed next steps for yourself.

You will never be charged for any services we offer at Willow Womens Center. Pregnancy testing, education, ultrasounds, and STI testing are all at no cost to you and designed to empower you.

Get the caring support you deserve and make your confidential appointment today.